There’s a new conscious Boricua mixing-it-up in Chicago’s underground music scene fusing Boogaloo, Salsa, Funk, Cha Cha Cha, and Rumba.
Lester Rey rocked the house on January 9 with the release of his new EP “The Blue Lion”, performing to a packed house of music lovers and artists at the Citlalin Gallery on the city’s South side.
Raised in gentrifying Bucktown and inspired by his father’s love for Funk and Rock, Lester devotes his musical gifts to developing “Boogaloo-Urbano” and a message that tells the story of a young man finding his way within the Puerto Rican Diaspora.
And his rhythmic voice accompanied by thundering
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congas forces you to pay attention.
Lester and I conversamos un poquito, y el muchacho es buena gente. He demonstrated that this generation is offering a rebirth of our culture and encouraging the importance of belonging and keeping alive our origins as we walk among cultural diversity.
MR: Lester, where did you grow up?
LR: I grew up in Chicago, the Bucktown area during gentrification and me and my family were eventually pushed out.
MR: Describe your genre of music.
LR: I call it Boogaloo-Urbano. Its influence comes from my background as a Puerto Rican living in Chicago and from the Boogaloo that was created in New York in the ‘60s; and combining Funk, Cha Cha Cha and Rumba. It’s a very Black and Brown mix that keeps those genres alive today. I found a home for my genre in the underground scene in Chicago. To read about it is one thing, but to listen to it, to me really puts it in perspective.
MR: As a Puerto Rican artist, what’s your lyrical goal?
LR: First, there’s the part where I make music for my own sanity, where I express personal experiences. It’s a coping mechanism, and a celebration, if you will. The duality of it all is not separate from the Puerto Rican Diaspora and Chicago’s Puerto Rican community. I also convey identity crisis, and that is something
that goes deeper into what Puerto Ricans have struggled with. My main accomplishment with my lyrics is identity; to solidify our existence.
MR: What’s your opinion on the current economic crisis in Puerto Rico?
LR: It’s a sad situation. Conversations between Puerto Rico and the U.S. are not respected nor are they proving to solve any of the existing problems. I believe independence is the only way Puerto Rico could gain the respect we deserve. The U.S. silenced our voice in the ‘50s with the Commonwealth status, but that just proved the island is dispensable. We are like a hat the U.S. decides to put on and put off at their own will. Practically speaking I hope Puerto Rico can gain the bankruptcy relief its seeking, but realistically we need our independence because we are a colony and while the U.S. deters from using such terminology they are sucking the life out of Puerto Rico. Something needs to happen soon. Puerto Ricans are leaving the island at really high numbers and at the end its not about the wellbeing of our people, it’s all about money. It’s all about the money.
MR: So you are not for Puerto Rico being a State.
LR: No. I am not. We are already getting treated like second-class citizens. I think independence is the way to go. Think about it in terms of your own life. You grow up and you leave your parents home for independence and while there is a struggle walking into adulthood, there is no better feeling than turning the key to your own home. It’s the best feeling in the world.
MR: Do you think Oscar López Rivera will be released from prison?
LR: He’s been in prison far too long without proof of any wrongdoing. We need our brothers and sisters back home from their fight for independence. He’s the symbol for freedom for Puerto Rico. He’s very important to our spirit and our ambition.
MR: How has your culture influenced your music?
LR: Personally it’s made me very proud of my Puerto Rican culture. My family and I love La Bandera. We don’t consciously think about doing Puerto Rican things, it’s who we are. There is also so much commonality in different areas of Latin culture. I find excitement in finding the ancestral roots that connect us
and our music. We all share very similar roots. Salsa was always playing in my house. I had to figure out what was stereotypical in Puerto Rican culture and making those costumbres for myself.
MR: What are some of your upcoming projects?
LR: I am working with a few directors on the release of my first music video for the “The Blue Lion.” The release party was a success and I am very excited about completing the project.
I am also working on five music videos for the five songs on the EP. That’s going to take some time but I am sure it’ll be a lot of fun. The video for the song “Andar” will be the first one released and one each month thereafter. During the Summer I’ll be working on some mixed versions of the songs.